Byron Schlomach

Sending an SOS for Arizona highways

Posted on February 25, 2009 | Author: Byron Schlomach
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I recently received a flyer in the mail asking for input on proposals to widen I-10 from Loop 101 to I-17. I find the solicitation of public input at this time odd since the road-building plan arises from Maricopa County's half-cent sales tax for roads that has been in place for decades.

Many current freeway widening and extension plans are a case study in why taxes, especially one unrelated to road use like a sales tax, are a poor financing option for highways. To add outside lanes to I-10, the current embankment and concrete retaining walls would have to be dug out and new retaining walls constructed. If two lanes are added, at least some of the overpasses would have to be reconstructed. Yet, the median is held sacrosanct for future transit development.

Meanwhile, Loop 202 is to extend from its intersection with I-10 near Ahwatukee around South Mountain to intersect with I-10 again at 55th Avenue, leaving a five-mile bottleneck on I-10 between it and Loop 101. It's almost as if currently planned fixes for road congestion are intentionally planned to produce more road congestion and be as expensive as possible.

Contrast this to public-private partnerships in California, Texas, and Virginia where private entities are privately funding, constructing, and administering public toll roads, often roads that transportation official plans never contemplated. These roads are built quickly to high standards, offer real congestion relief, and maximize efficiency by keeping costs low. Texas Highway 130, for example, wouldn't have been built for another ten years and was $400 million under budget before it was finished.

Arizona needs a comprehensive public-private partnership law for roads, and it needs it now, before past errors are only compounded.

Byron Schlomach, Ph.D, is director of economic policy at the Goldwater Institute.
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Learn more:
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Goldwater Institute: More Roads to Travel: A Path to Transportation Solutions in Arizona
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Arizona Republic: Traffic congestion worsens, but relief is no easy or cheap task
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ADOT: Interstate 10 widening

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